Further work is required to develop the evidence base on the impact of social prescribing. However, existing evidence from individual schemes suggests that social prescribing may improve outcomes for people and reduce pressure on the NHS. For example, research found an average of 28% fewer GP consultations and 24% fewer attendances at A&E in instances where the social prescribing connector service was working well (Polley et al, 2017).
There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, although it is acknowledged that there is a need for more robust and systematic evidence to review its effectiveness. Measuring wellbeing is a difficult concept, especially through a medical lens. Those implementing or leading Social Prescribing are being encouraged to evaluate and monitor care and outcomes. The Making Sense of Social Prescribing document by the University of Westminster provides information on how to evaluate a scheme and a useful checklist. In the NHS England document, Social Prescribing a Community Based Support you will find a common outcomes framework in Annex D which enables schemes across the country to capture core data in order to create a consistent evidence base.
A briefing from the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, Evaluating Social Prescribing, has reviewed the research methods and approaches used to evaluate UK-based social prescribing interventions in recent years. It will inform health care and social services professionals, as well as organisations delivering social prescribing interventions and those conducting evaluations of them. It aims to give an overview of how social prescribing has been evaluated, and what can be learned from this.